Hyper-personalization is the latest buzzword in marketing. It's no longer enough to be personal... you have to add some hyperbole to it. It's the next level of tailored content attuned to the needs of your leads and customers.

But when you really think about it, content is either personal or not personal. If you're making distinctions among levels of personalization, you're probably not doing all you can to actually connect with people on their level—and there's nothing "hyper" about that.

So what does it mean to be personal? Simply using someone's name in your messaging is not personalization; these days, it's the expected minimum. To be truly, authentically personal, you must understand the unique needs of your leads or customers and address them specifically in your content.

Personalization is a conversation. It's relevance. It's delivering the right message at the right time to the right person. Above all, it isn't about you.

Consumers know all that: Companies such as Amazon that do personalization well have spoiled everyone by building a model entirely around highly relevant communications and recommendations. And as we marketers ask for more and more information from customers, there's a new expectation that companies will use it intelligently and not waste customers' time with irrelevant messages.

So how can you go from a company that pushes out information to one that truly engages in conversation?

Start with who your customers are and find out what they want

Who are your most likely customers, really? Their titles and demographics tell only a small sliver of their story and how your company might fit in. That's where personas come in.

Data can only tell you so much, so your best option is to go straight to the source. Your customers are complex people with unique joys, frustrations, challenges, and wins that affect their daily lives and, ultimately, their buying decisions. Data points can't tell you all of those things, but your customer can. Pick up the phone and talk to some of them—the happy ones that love your company and the ones with complaints. Or gather a focus group.

Go beyond the surface questions and dig into the nitty-gritty details. But don't ask questions about your company or your products or services. This is your chance to get an in-depth look at who your customers are, not to find out what they think about you.

Once you've aggregated those results, combine it with your data and create buyer personas that have unique needs, wants, experiences, and buying behavior and tell a story about who they are.

With your personas in hand, now revisit your content strategy.

Build your strategy around actual buying behavior

Now that you know who your customers are and what they want from you, it's time to build out your content plan in a way that's scalable and repeatable.

Armed with your personas, begin by mapping out the buyer's journey from a content perspective. These "content maps" are essential to creating a nurture process that allows you to respond with personalized content at every stage of the funnel.

That step can be a challenge: You really have to look hard at your content and not be afraid to toss out what doesn't fit. Always look to your personas; if the content wouldn't make sense to any of them, it doesn't belong. Remember, it's not about you.

Write content that speaks to the particulars

Once you've created your maps and discarded irrelevant content, fill in the holes with that personalized content and watch as the conversation evolves over the customer lifecycle.

Your buyer personas are absolutely vital here. Immerse yourself in them, step into their shoes. What are their pain points and what specifically about your product or service addresses them? How have you already helped others like them? If you have case studies that speak to stories similar to theirs, it's always a good idea to make those readily available so these customers can see what you're capable of.

Consider their interactions with your content from all angles, such as whether their job allows them time to research products and services, or whether they squeeze it in between other tasks. The former group may have the time for longer, more detailed content, whereas the latter would likely respond better shorter content with succinct points that can be easily scanned.

If it matters to them, it should matter to you as you're writing.

Take it and automate it

Marketing automation and smart publishing tools have revolutionized the way we communicate—but only if you put those tools to good use. Automation and scalability are the two points at which so many companies fail, but marketing automation software can help solve those issues.

Take your content plan and look at all the ways you can automate your communications; then, build out your funnel. This is not an easy process, and if you find yourself struggling to carve out the time or resources to execute correctly, look to a consulting agency with expertise in your chosen marketing automation software.

* * *

Every day you aren't personalizing your content means lost conversions and wasted opportunities for creating meaningful connections.

Hyper-personalization is really just maximizing every chance you have to customize content to fit a specific audience. It's being personal consistently throughout the entire user experience. Customers want to get to know you as a brand, and they want you to get to know them beyond a sales figure in a spreadsheet.

Approach your content as an ongoing conversation that never truly ends, and you can be more than just another email in their inbox. You'll be the company that really gets them.

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Hyper-Personalization? Forget the 'Hyper' and Just Be Personal

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image of Justin Gray

Justin Gray is the CEO of LeadMD. He founded the company with a vision to transform marketing via the use of marketing automation and CRM solutions. Reach him via jgray@leadmd.com.

LinkedIn: Justin Gray

Twitter: @jgraymatter